Skunk mating season takes place during February and March. Now is the time to prevent access to potential dens. Black Press file photo.

Dealing with skunks during mating season

Skunks will be looking for a place to call home before they give birth to a litter of kits.

With spring right around the corner, residents in the area may notice a spike in skunk activity as their mating season has begun.

Vanessa Isnardy, Provincial Coordinator for WildSafeBC, says it is best to deter skunks from making dens near your house before they have kits (babies).

“With all wildlife, you want to give them lots of space. Skunks are most active at night. Because it’s mating season, you don’t want them having babies under a porch, so it’s best to exclude them from setting up,” Isnardy explained.

According to the WildSafeBC website, skunks don’t hibernate, but they do spend the winter months in underground dens. They rarely dig their own burrows, preferring to use abandoned dens of other animals, or by finding creases and gaps under porches and buildings. Skunk mating season typically takes place during February and March, with kits born in early May.

READ MORE: Raccoons on the rise in the East Kootenay

Isnardy says that there are several ways to deter a skunk from denning near your home.

One way of doing so is by installing a one-way mesh door so the skunk can leave, but not re-enter.

The danger with this method, she says, is if skunks have already had their kits.

“You don’t want to separate the mom from her kits, or they could die. So if there is a skunk family under your porch, let’s say, and the kits aren’t mobile, it is best to leave them be. It’s a bit tricky,” she explained.

She adds that since female skunks will typically have their kits in early May, there is still time to prevent access to homes and outbuildings.

Skunks tend to thrive in backyards and farm fields, and are opportunistic carnivores. Skunks can also be attracted to yards by things like garbage, birdseed, windfall fruit and pet food.

“Putting up fencing around your porch or other potential den areas can prevent skunks from making a den near your home,” said Isnardy. “It’s also good to make sure that your garbage is secure, that bird seed isn’t close to the ground and that fruit trees are picked. This goes for all wildlife.”

She adds that it wouldn’t be typical of a skunk to climb into your rafters in an outbuilding, but other critters like raccoons and rats will do so.

“Skunks typically make their dens on or underground,” said Isnardy.

Dog owners should also be cautious at this time of year, especially after dark. WildSafeBC says that dogs are often sprayed after chasing or otherwise harassing skunks.

“While skunks can become quite comfortable around humans, if cornered, startled or threatened by humans or their pets, skunks may spray their pungent musk as a defence. As anyone who has experienced this knows, this pungent spray is very difficult to get rid of, whether on your dog, your clothing or even just lingering in the air. Because of this, people are often hesitant to have skunks living in the yard,” says WildSafeBC. “Reducing conflicts with skunks (and indeed, all wildlife) is all about managing attractants responsibly and discouraging wildlife from becoming too comfortable in your yard.”

Other ways to prevent access to your home and outbuildings include sealing up any potential holes or entrances around the exterior of your house and other buildings.

If you do want to exclude a skunk from an occupied den, it is best to do so after dark, when the skunk has left.

WildSafeBC says you may be able to encourage an unwanted skunk to move out of a den my placing a bright light or radio near the den site.

Removing habitat features from your property including brush piles, long grasses and woodpiles also discourages skunks from denning.

For more information visit the WildSafeBC website and click on species. The BC SPCA also has helpful information on recommended methods for skunk control on their website.

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